Dogs DIE in hot cars


With temperatures soaring, it is vital to take care of our animals.   And this means paying particular attention to the wellbeing of our livestock, wildlife and pets. There are always animals who suffer as a result of human thoughtlessness, arrogance and sheer stupidity, and sadly one scenario is dogs dying in hot cars.      

A car can become as hot as an oven very quickly - even if it doesn't feel that warm.   When it's 22 degrees ouside, the temperature in a car can reach 47 degrees in an hour.  That's unbearable. Dogs can't wind the window down, open the car door or get themselves more water.  They are trapped. Conservatories and caravans or motor homes can equally be death traps.

Despite all the information available, the police and RSPCA still receive thousands of calls about dogs trapped inside cars on a hot day. 

Visit the RSPCA to find out more

What to do if you find a dog in a car on a hot day

Here’s a step-by-step guide of what to do if you see a dog in a car on a warm day, direct from the RSPCA (and I quote):

  • Check the animal - is he/she relaxed or distressed? 
  • If the dog seems fairly content and isn’t in immediate danger then try to establish how long they have been unattended in the vehicle and note down the registration. Ask a member of staff to make a tannoy announcement to trace the owner but ask someone to stay with the dog and monitor them.
  • If the dog is in distress or displaying any sign of heatstroke - such as panting heavily, drooling excessively, is lethargic or uncoordinated, or collapsed and vomiting - call 999 immediately and request police. 
  • If the situation becomes critical and police can’t attend, many people’s instinct is to break into the car to free the dog. Please be aware that, without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage. 
  • Make sure you tell the police of your intentions and take photos or footage of the dog as well as names and numbers of witnesses. The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances.
  • Once removed from the car, move the dog to a shaded/cool area and douse him with cool water. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water. 
  • The dog should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. 

The RSPCA says: In an emergency, it is best to dial 999 and report a dog in a hot car to police. The RSPCA may not be able to attend quickly enough and, with no powers of entry, we’d need police assistance at such an incident.

You can call the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 for advice but, if a dog is in danger, dialling 999 should always be the first step. 

There is information on the RSPCA's website, with information about what to do if you find a dog in a car on a hot day, including advice for if you think you need to break into the car to get the dog out - this could be a criminal act, so there are tips for how to approach such an action.  

Under the Animal Welfare Act, all owners have a duty of care towards their animals.  This includes preventing suffering, and not exposing them to extremes of temperature.  If a dog is left on a warm day and suffers, the owners could be prosecuted.

Dogs suffer in hot cars

Dogs are different to people - dogs can't cool down in the same way we can.  Leaving a window open or parking in the shade won't help.  Cloud cover can quickly disappear.  Temperatures in air conditioned cars can reach the same temperature as outside within minutes of the air-con being turned off.

 Signs of heatstroke are...

Excessive panting and profuse salivation are the most obvious signs but also:

  • overly red or purple gums
  • a rapid pulse
  • lack of co-ordination
  • reluctance or inability to rise after collapsing
  • seizures
  • vomiting or diarrhoea
  • in extreme circumstances coma or death.

The RSPCA says that if you see a dog in a hot car showing any signs of heatstroke, dial 999 immediately.  The dog could lose consciousness and experience internal organ failiure. 

If you think your dog is suffering from heat stroke, act fast.   The RSPCA says:

  • Move your pet to a cooler spot straight away.  Then ring your vet for advice immediately.
  • Douse your dog with cool (not cold) water. You could put your dog in a shower and run cool water over him/her, spray your dog with cool water and place him/her in the breeze of a fan. Never cool your dog so much that he/she begins to shiver
  • Let your dog drink small amounts of cool water
  • Continue to douse your dog with cool water until his/her breathing starts to settle and then take him/her straight to the veterinary surgery 

The RSPCA points out that some dogs are more prone to heatstroke, such as the very young and old, dogs with thick heavy coats and those with very short flat faces such as pugs, whilst dogs with certain diseases or on some sort sof medication are also at risk, but frankly, any dog is at risk being shut in a car is at risk of heatstroke and death.   We all have a responsibility to care for our animals and look after them.